Your web browser stores a list of your recently visited websites. Clearing this list is easy, but you’ll want to block your browser from saving history in the first place if you find yourself clearing it all the time. The privacy problems don’t stop there – out-of-date web browsers allow websites to snoop on your history. And if you’ve got a Google account, Google may know more about your browsing history than you think.
Depending on your browser, you can prevent the browser from storing private data entirely or automatically clear it when the browser exits. All browsers also contain private-browsing features, which allow you to browse sensitive websites without leaving a trace on your local system.
Update Your Browser
Older versions of the major web browsers are vulnerable to browser history sniffing. Web browsers display visited links and unvisited links in different color text, so a shady website or advertising network could load links in a hidden frame and check their colors. By doing so, the website can tell whether you’ve visited a website. This problem has been fixed in the current versions of the major web browsers, but hundreds of millions of people use older Web browsers and are still vulnerable.
Viewing Browser History
Anyone with access to your computer can view the recent sites you visited. This option is easily found in a web browser’s menu, but a quick way to open the history in any Web browser is by pressing Ctrl-H.
The below screenshot shows the recent sites I visited in Internet Explorer. If you have multiple browsers installed on your computer, each browser has its own history and its own history settings.
Internet Explorer’s history options are located in its Internet Options window. If you’re using an older version of Internet Explorer, you’ll find this option under the Tools menu instead of the gear menu.
Under the General tab, click the “Settings” button in the “Browsing history” section to access the history settings.
In the history settings window, set the “Days to keep pages in history” option to “0“.
Internet Explorer will actually keep pages for one day when you set it to 0, so you’ll also want to enable the “Delete browsing history on exit” option. Click the “Delete…” button to customize the data that Internet Explorer deletes when you close it.
Firefox users will find Firefox’s history options in its Options window. If you don’t see a Firefox button, look under the Tools menu.
On the Privacy pane, click the “Firefox will” box and select “Never remember history.” This setting may be a bit inconvenient – it automatically deletes cookies, too, so you’ll have to log back into websites every time you restart Firefox. However, it does improve privacy.
After disabling history, click the “clear all current history” link in the window to clear the existing history.
Unfortunately, Google Chrome doesn’t have an integrated way to disable or automatically clear its browser history, although you can use the “Clear all browsing data” button on the History page to quickly clear your history.
From the extension’s options page, you can set it to always delete your browsing history and other private data when you close Chrome.
You can also try making your Chrome History file read-only, which we’ve covered in the past, but this is a bit more complicated.
Apple’s Safari Web browser is like Chrome – it also can’t automatically clear its own history. Unfortunately, there’s no extension to help for Safari. Luckily, you can have Safari only store history items for a single day. To do so, open Safari’s Preferences window.
On the General pane, set Safari to automatically remove history items after one day.
You can also remove Safari’s history immediately by selecting the Reset option in the menu.
Opera users will find browser history options in the Preferences window, located in the Settings submenu.
Click the Advanced tab in the Preferences window and select the History section to view Opera’s history options. Set the Addresses field to 0 and Opera won’t remember any websites you visit.
Google Web History
If you have a Google account, Google’s Web History feature may be saving the searches you perform and the sites you visit from Google’s search page. To check, open Google’s Web History page and log in with your Google account credentials if you’re not already logged in.
Click the “Remove all Web History” button to clear your web history and disable collection of future web history.
You can also use the private browsing, incognito mode, or InPrivate browsing feature in your web browser to surf the web without leaving a trace on your local system. This is particularly useful for Safari, which can’t automatically clear history on exit. You’ll find these options in your browser’s menu.
Do you constantly clear your browser’s history and private data, or do you not care who sees it? Leave a comment and let us know.
Image Credit: Magnifying Glass Searching the Internet via Shutterstock